Do you get queasy when you see ants in your house? Is your house infested with carpenter ants? Do you want to get rid of them and keep your house pest-free? If so, you’re reading the right article. In this article, I shall discuss how to identify and get rid of carpenter ants.
What are Carpenter ants?
Carpenter ants are so-called because they make circular galleries (small holes) on wooden surfaces using their mandibles. It seems as though they are carving the wood. Hence, the name.
One of the key differences between them and termites is that carpenter ants do not consume the wood that they carve out whereas termites do.
Carpenter ants generally prefer to build their colonies in damp, rotting wood on forest floors. However, they can also venture into homes (especially the ones near forests) and build their nests on wooden furniture.
Carpenter ants do structural damage to the wooden furniture they build their nests on. In the wild, they form a symbiotic relationship with a species of caterpillar known as Aphids. They stroke the aphids with their antennae and the Aphids excrete a sweet substance known as Honeydew, which the carpenter ants eat.
This way the carpenter ants get their bellies full and they offer protection to the Aphids from their natural predators. Carpenter ants are usually black or red or a hybrid of the two colors.
However, many other ant species are also of similar colors. Hence, recognizing Carpenter ants based on their color alone is difficult. However, they do have some unique traits that can help you identify them and their infestation easily.
What do carpenter ants look like?
It’s not really that hard. I’m sure that you can grasp it. If you look via a magnifying glass, the details will be revealed. Carpenter ants have a heart-shaped head, a rounded thorax, and hair on their abdomen.
They also have only a single node connecting their thorax and abdomen. These are the unique features of Carpenter ants that help us distinguish them from other ants.
Signs of a Carpenter Ant infestation in the house
Now, this is an important question. Unless you can identify a Carpenter ant infestation, you cannot eliminate it. Here are the major signs of a carpenter ant infestation:
- Piles of wood shavings called Frass (like thick sawdust) can be found beneath wooden furniture like tables, doors, chairs, showcase, etcetera.
- There will be circular galleries (small holes) on wooden surfaces/furniture. The holes are all interlinked for the navigation of the ants.
- You can see winged ants creeping out from the holes on wooden furniture.
- You can see the shed wings of ants.
- Rustling noises will be heard from the hollow wooden furniture where the ants have built their nest.
How to get rid of Carpenter Ants?
To eliminate a Carpenter ant nest, you’ll have to first find it, which can be done by the above-mentioned steps. Once you have located their nest, here is how you can get rid of their colony.
Create Dirt-cheap Ant bait with Boric Acid
Boric Acid is a very toxic substance to carpenter ants. It closely resembles powdered sugar. You must mix powdered sugar and Boric acid and place it near the carpenter ant’s nest. They should be mixed in equal proportions. About half a cup of each would be an ideal start.
The ants will get confused between Boric Acid and powdered sugar and consume them both and die.
Destroy their nest
Once you have killed the ants, you should destroy their nest site to prevent future infestation. You can spray pesticides into the round galleries to do so. Once you have sprayed the pesticide, you can either seal the galleries with white clay or buy new furniture to prevent future infestation.
To get an even better idea on how to destroy Carpenter ant nests, kindly watch this video.
Remove Dead and Rotten Wood
Dead Wood is one of the primary sources of attraction for Carpenter ants. Dead Wood usually gets moist over time and provides the perfect nesting place for carpenter ants. It provides them with food (in the form of fungus and moss) and moisture they need to thrive.
If you have dead and rotting wood in your lawn, clear it at once lest it will serve as a nesting ground for carpenter ants. Not only that, the carpenter ant colony can spread from your lawn to your house! So beware.
Spray Peppermint Oil to repel ant
You can either drive the Carpenter ants out of your home alive (if you are too kind-hearted like my sister) or you can spray repelling substances throughout your home after you have killed them to prevent them from entering into your home again.
Carpenter ants, like all ants, communicate and navigate using pheromones. Certain natural substances have a strong odor and disrupt the pheromone trails. Thus they disorient the ants and discourage them from building a colony in your home.
The natural substances that have a strong repelling odor for the ants are essential oils. There are so many different essential oils. Some of them are lemongrass oil, bay leaf oil, peppermint oil, tea tree oil, cedarwood oil, orange essence, and lemon oil.
I had a carpenter ant infestation in my house once and I found that spraying lemongrass oil throughout my house was effective in driving them out. The odor felt strong even for me. I wasn’t repelled by it though. I found it quite pleasing and invigorating.
Remove plants around the outer wall
Plants anywhere will attract carpenter ants as their sources of food such as bugs are present there. If plants are creeping along the outer walls of your house, they will surely attract carpenter ants into your house. Then carpenter ants will then make their nest in the wooden furniture of your home. To remove plants around your house’s outer wall to prevent a carpenter ant infestation in your house.
How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants in the Wall
- Locate the place where the carpenter ants are coming from on your wall.
- Drill a hole there.
- Keep on drilling holes, 5 cms apart, for 6 feet to right and left of the place where the carpenter ants are coming from.
- Spray any recommended pesticide that will kill the carpenter ants.
- You may need to use an entire pesticide can.
- Clean their carcasses the next morning.
Preventing Carpenter Ants from returning to your home
Once you drive the carpenter ants out of your home, you would want to keep them out of your home. After all, nobody would like to deal with a menace twice. Here are the steps you can follow to prevent carpenter ants from returning to your home.
Proper Home Maintenance
You must keep your house spic and span and prevent any food particles from lying on the floor or the kitchen sink. I know that this is hard work but it has to be done for the sake of your house and your furniture.
Leftover food particles are a major source of attraction for Carpenter ants. It is what encourages them to feed and build colonies in your home.
Properly insulate your home
You must seal all the cracks and holes in your home with substances like white cement. This can be a painstaking job but it has to be done to prevent a Carpenter ant infestation.
If there are any cracks or holes in your wooden furniture or walls or windows, seal them with white cement or white clay. This will prevent Carpenter ants from building new colonies there.
Keep your lawn well-maintained
Yup, there’s no escaping from your chores. Your lawn must be free of fallen leaves, fallen pieces of wood and branches hanging directly over your house. These are ideal nesting grounds for carpenter ants.
You can dig a compost pit and bury the dead leaves and wood or you can simply burn them to prevent a Carpenter ant infestation. Watch this video to learn how to build a compost pit.
You must also keep firewood well away from the exterior walls of your home to prevent carpenter ants from entering into your home. Before you bring firewood into your home, kindly check if it has a Carpenter ant infestation.
Keep your home dry and water-tight
Carpenter ants need food, water and shelter to survive. You must eliminate these sources as much as possible. The floors of your home must be dry and clean. You must fix any leaking taps and you must not spill water or any other sweet liquid anywhere in your home.
If there are no sources of food or water in your home, the ants will be discouraged from breeding there. Hire a plumber if you have to.
You must spray the appropriate insecticides that kill carpenter ants, around your house. This will kill any carpenter ants trying to enter your home and discourage them from making their nests in your home.
Though there are myriad ways to kill carpenter ants, prevention is always better than cure. It will save you your time, effort, and money. Keep your house clean and dry, keep firewood away from your exterior walls and seal all the cracks and holes in your house to prevent a Carpenter ant infestation.
Spraying repelling substances like essential oils throughout your house will discourage carpenter ants from entering and breeding in your home. Ax off any branches that hang directly over your home to cut off entry points for Carpenter ants.
If you’re not able to handle a Carpenter ant infestation yourself, kindly call an exterminator and leave the job to the experts.
1. What do carpenter ants eat?
Carpenter ants are omnivores and will eat insects, berries, fruits, and some leaves. They are most attracted to sweet substances like Honeydew excreted by special types of caterpillars known as Aphids.
2. What damage do Carpenter ants cause?
Carpenter ants cause structural damage to wooden furniture. They create interlinked circular galleries on wooden surfaces, which weaken their strength. If you’re not careful, your wooden chairs may break while you sit on them.
3. Which is the breeding season for carpenter ants?
Carpenter ants breed during the spring and summer seasons. Some queens and a few males will develop wings to find a new nesting place. During winter, Carpenter ants do not breed and only forage for food.
4. Where are Carpenter ants commonly found?
Carpenter ants are found throughout the US but they are more concentrated in the North-eastern states due to a large number of cities (and ultimately wooden furniture)found there.
5. How big do carpenter ants grow?
Worker ants grow to be up to 3/4th of an inch long while queen ants can grow up to 2 and a half inches long.